Berlin withdraws candidacy for bishop

By Linda S. Rhodes

Saying that he has been able to reaffirm "a clear call to pastoral ministry," the Rev. Tom Berlin has withdrawn his name from the list of nominees seeking to be elected bishop at this year's Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Berlin, who serves as lead pastor of Floris UMC in Herndon, had been endorsed by the Virginia Conference delegation to General and Jurisdictional conferences.

Tom Berlin

"After nearly a year of thought, prayer, conversation, reflection and discovery, I withdraw my nomination for the episcopacy. I have been able to reaffirm a clear call to pastoral ministry," Berlin said in a letter sent to members of the delegation. "At this time I do not sense a sufficient inward calling of God for the general superintendency to continue in the election process."

Virginia Conference delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences had voted to endorse Berlin as a candidate for bishop during a delegation meeting Saturday, Feb. 6. The vote to endorse Berlin came after a number of delegates expressed a desire to reconsider an earlier decision made in October that the delegation would not endorse a candidate from Virginia for episcopal service.

As a result of the delegation endorsement, Berlin's name was to be among those submitted to the entire Virginia Annual Conference for consideration of an endorsement during the June 17-19 session in Roanoke.

The Rev. Ted Smith, Fredericksburg District superintendent, has been endorsed for bishop by the Virginia Conference chapter of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) and will be considered for a conference-wide endorsement by the Virginia Annual Conference later this week.

Five bishops will be elected at this year’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to be held July 13-15 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in western North Carolina.

Read Tom Berlin's entire statement below

Noting that bishops focus on the "macro work of the denomination," and pastors of local churches focus on "the micro level of the church’s mission in the community and world," Berlin said that both tasks need "committed and skilled leadership that is Christ-centered. Each is essential and both are important."

He said that during General Conference he spent a great deal of time considering reports of the current and projected future state of The United Methodist Church provided by Don House, economist who advises the General Commission for Finance and Administration.

"The projections are not encouraging for United Methodist churches in the United States," Berlin said. "Changing these predicted outcomes will only happen if leaders at every level of our denomination find new and innovative ways to communicate the gospel to a society that is increasingly resistant and disinterested in its message, offer discipleship that moves from learning to transformation and engage the laity of our churches in challenges and ministry worthy of their time and resources.

"At this time I experience the clear calling of God to give myself to these efforts in the context of leading in the local church," Berlin said. "It is my hope that this leadership will prove beneficial not only to the congregation I serve but to other church leaders who seek resources, ideas and practices that might enable them to increase their fruitfulness."

 — Linda S. Rhodes is Virginia Conference director of Communications

 

Withdrawal of Nomination
Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference
Rev. Tom Berlin
Virginia Annual Conference

After nearly a year of thought, prayer, conversation, reflection and discovery, I withdraw my nomination for the episcopacy. I have been able to reaffirm a clear call to pastoral ministry. At this time I do not sense a sufficient inward calling of God for the general superintendency to continue in the election process.

My reflection over the past year has enabled me to reaffirm my belief in the importance of the office of the episcopacy to the United Methodist Church. The oversight bishops provide, the faith they guard, the unity they seek, the discipline they administer and the work they support are all essential to our life together. Bishops work with cabinets who collectively administer appointments to hundreds of local churches in our conferences. The value of these positions and the good those who occupy them can do is apparent to us all.

At the same time, The United Methodist Church continues to affirm that the local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs…Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world. (2012 Book of Discipline, P201)

Those who serve as bishops give themselves predominately to the macro work of the denomination. Those appointed to the local congregation focus on the micro level of the church’s mission in the community and world. Both arenas need committed and skilled leadership that is Christ-centered. Each is essential and both are important. During the 2016 General Conference I spent a great deal of time considering reports of the current and projected future state of the United Methodist Church provided by Don House, the economist who advises the General Commission for Finance and Administration. The projections are not encouraging for United Methodist churches in the United States. Changing these predicted outcomes will only happen if leaders at every level of our denomination find new and innovative ways to communicate the gospel to a society that is increasingly resistant and disinterested in its message, offer discipleship that moves from learning to transformation and engage the laity of our churches in challenges and ministry worthy of their time and resources.

At this time I experience the clear calling of God to give myself to these efforts in the context of leading in the local church. It is my hope that this leadership will prove beneficial not only to the congregation I serve but to other church leaders who seek resources, ideas and practices that might enable them to increase their fruitfulness. I am grateful for those who hear both the outer call of the church and a clear inner calling of God to offer themselves for election to the episcopal office. Being a nominee from the Virginia Annual Conference is one of the greatest honors of my vocational life. I appreciate deeply the encouragement of our delegation and I am indebted for this extended time to discern the will of the Holy Spirit. God has used this process in my life for many purposes, and I am grateful.

 

 

The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark, and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the GCFA, Attn: Legal Department, PO Box 340029, Nashville, TN 37203-0029; phone 615-369-2334; fax 615-369-2330

Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church
10330 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
P.O. Box 5606, Glen Allen, VA 23058-5606
(804) 521-1100
Click here for directions to the Center